Book Review: Educating Gen Wi-Fi by Greg Whitby

Educating Gen WiFi Book Cover To many in Catholic Education, Greg Whitby is better known as the Executive Director of the Parramatta, however his passion for 21st century learning, and for changing schools to meet the needs of today’s students is known to any who read his blog, Bluyonder, or follow him on Twitter (@gregwhitby). He has crystallised his thoughts on this in his recent publication, Educating Gen Wi-Fi, which extensively describes the challenges for schools who still operate in the ‘factory model’ of the 19th century, and some ways in which some schools have answered this challenge. With extensive case studies and chapters addressing who today’s learners are, learning spaces, assessment and parents as partners in learning, it is an easy to read book for anyone interested in education, but specifically for those who are keen to make a change to their ways of operating in the school arena.

The book begins with  a whirlwind tour of the development of education from Ancient Greece to present day. Whitby challenges readers with the fact that ‘we cannot continue to deliver an ‘analogue’ 20th century curriculum when the world is ‘digital’, exploding with information that can be accessed by increasingly smaller and more powerful mobile devices’ (p.50).

Heppell quote

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by _Fidelio_: http://flickr.com/photos/photogaby/4418959970/ edited using Instaquote

Whitby speaks about the use of digital tools to share learning to a real and worldwide audience, and the ability to harness this sharing of learning through the development of Personal Learning Networks via platforms such as Twitter. He explores how students today need to be critical thinkers and be able to analyse, evaluate and remix information in order to solve problems. As technology has flattened our world, there is an increasing the need for global literacy, as we work and play with others across the world.
The increased use of technology brings about challenges for schools, one of which is the need to develop a sense of digital citizenship within students and staff. The common solution for many schools faced with issues of cyberbullying and distraction by social media is to ban access to sites and tools such as mobile phones. Whitby argues that this is forcing an old model onto new learners – and that the connected learners of today should be encouraged and indeed able to use the tools that are most natural to them in their learning. He argues it is up to teachers to develop their skills and comfort levels with technology, and to harness these powerful tools that students use so naturally in their everyday lives.

The diversity of learners in schools today is one issue that is handled very well with technology. It allows teachers to collaboratively construct curricula that meets the needs of learners at a variety of levels, and indeed Whitby even suggests that the learners themselves should have input into what and how they learn – something leading educators such as Ewan McIntosh, and his work with Design Thinking echo.

It’s not just a room full of computers and tablets that makes for 21st century learning. Whitby makes it clear that it is the relationships between teacher and student, and the strength of the pedagogy that truly makes the difference. He bases these claims on the work of John Hattie, as well as his personal experience of over 30 years in education. Teachers should embrace new technologies as just another resource in their arsenal – and let student learning drive the focus rather than technology.

Learners

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by zoonabar: http://flickr.com/photos/zoonabar/3371660691/ edited with Instaquote

When it comes to assessment, Whitby is a great proponent of learning portfolios, and questions the place of external exams such as Naplan. Rather than focusing on teaching to the test, he believes that students who are encouraged to develop their critical thinking and creative skills through broad and engaging pedagogy will enable students to achieve in all manner of assessment. He is also quite critical of how the media and public relations generally focus purely on academic results, ignoring the many other terrific achievements that occur in schools, as well as the achievements and contributions made by those students who do not follow the academic path, but choose a vocational route. Emphasis on traditional areas of education such as numeracy and literacy narrows the focus and denies the outside world a true view of the many areas schools support.

Another area addressed by Whitby and one that is mentioned frequently in the research around contemporary learning is the influence of open and flexible learning spaces, which allow teachers and students to work collaboratively and in many different ways. A number of case studies illustrate how schools can be redesigned physically to allow students and teachers to escape the four walls of the traditional classroom. He writes also about the positive impact of close collaboration with parents, and how new tools including social media can be used to communicate and inform parents.

Whitby closes the book by reviewing the commonly held myths about the type of change in educational landscape he is suggesting. Responses commonly heard in the media and in carpark gossip including ‘it’s been done before’ and ‘the curriculum won’t allow it’ are addressed comprehensively. He suggests that hard questions need to be asked, and that for schooling to change, we must once and for all move beyond the information transmission model, a model that is clearly outdated in the age of Google.

Questions

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by alexanderdrachmann: http://flickr.com/photos/drachmann/327122302/ edited with Instaquote.

This book is an excellent overview and introduction to the challenges facing schools today. While some educators who remain informed about changing technology and who are actively implementing new ways of teaching and learning in their schools will find nothing new, for those who are just beginning the journey, or who want to find the words to express the impact of these changes to others, it is certainly a worthwhile read. The evidence he provides through the many case studies demonstrates the amazing things that can be achieved with creativity and vision, and hopefully schools will continue to take on this challenge and provide engaging, relevant and rigorous learning for this connected generation of students.

Young People using Social Media positively: Authentic, real world learning opportunities

Many of you will have heard about Martha Payne, the 9 year old Scottish girl whose blog, Never Seconds, came to international attention earlier this year. If you didn’t, here’s a brief rundown:

Martha began writing her blog as a record of her school lunches.
She promised a photo, and a score:

Photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It won’t happen, will it?

Within two weeks her blog posts had gathered more than a million viewers, and enthusiastic posts from other students sharing their own lunch photos, not just from Scotland, but from Finland, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States. She was garnering so much attention that she even raised a sizeable amount of money for a charity; Mary’s Meals, an organisation that funds school lunches in Africa. Seven weeks later, the local council made the controversial decision to ban Martha from bringing her camera to school; thankfully this decision was quickly reversed after protests from some of her most well known supporters (including Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman) as well as a massive media protest at the short-sightedness of the move.

This is just one example of the extraordinary potential young people now have to influence what was previously beyond their reach; using social media and other 2.0 technologies, the thoughts and actions of young people can have powerful influences across the entire globe.

Another example is the recent news that Hasbro has revealed it will release a toy oven in shades of black, silver and blue, after McKenna Pope, 13, submitted a petition with over 40 000 signatures that she had created on Change.org.  The thirteen year old was planning to buy the toy oven as a gift for her little brother, but became aware that it only came in pink and purple, and featured all girls in the advertising. Using YouTube to raise awareness of her petition, McKenna showed how social media can be used to create positive change.

With examples such as these for inspiration, there is no end to the possibilities for teachers looking for ways to engage their students in real world action. In fact, as Marilyn M. Lombardi’ suggests in Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, thanks to technology, authentic, real world learning has never been more achievable.

Why not consider the following:

* Use iPads and iMovie to create documentaries on student issues – post to a YouTube channel for a world-wide audience

* Publish student research as a Wikipedia page

* Tweet results of student surveys; ask other schools to comment and compare results

* Create a Google Map of the local area around the school, locating community services and resources relevant for the school community; publish on the school blog

* Participate in a global project such as the Flat Classroom or a local one such as Witness King Tides

* Use real data sets to create suggested strategies for real-world problems – try Saving Migratory Animals as an example

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and the projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out these amazing young people and what they’ve achieved using passion, energy and technology!

A small beginning has led to Random Kid – a website that helps kids solve real world problems:

Using YouTube to share a great message:

Have your students taken on a great real world project? Share in the comments below!

Marilyn Lombardi. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview | EDUCAUSE.edu ( No. ELI Paper 1: 2007). Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/authentic-learning-21st-century-overview

Wikipedia – one encyclopedia to rule them all…or just a great place to start?

The debate about Wikipedia and its role in education continues to rage.Just last month, Brian Proffitt, a  Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame wrote a well reasoned piece on why he believes Wikipedia has no place in the tertiary classroom. This was followed up with another, equally convincing article a week later by another practising academic, Jonathan Obar, explaining why he believes strongly that Wikipedia plays an essential part of education in the 21st Century.

Both articles raise valid points. Proffitt focuses upon the fact that by crowdsourcing information, there is no guarantee that the information is quality, and that Wikipedia is a major source of plagiarism, as students find it easier to copy text directly from a site that almost always appears in the first ten hits of any Google Search. Obar counters by arguing that the fact that the knowledge is crowdsourced provides an excellent opportunity to teach students not only critical literacy, but also a study in how knowledge is (and always has been) created – through debate, opinion and argument.

Currently, it is the decision of individual educators as to whether or not they encourage the use of Wikipedia in their classroom. It remains an immense resource of information – with William Cronon, the President of the American Historical Association stating that ‘Wikipedia is the largest, most comprehensive, copiously detailed, stunningly useful encyclopedia in all of human history‘.

One way that teachers commonly suggest students use Wikipedia is as a place to begin their research. While it may not be the source of information that students actually cite, it is often a useful starting point, for students to get an overall introductory understanding of a topic, and to use some of the articles cited in the Wikipedia article as a jumping off point into more scholarly literature.

An excellent tool to assist at this stage of research is the WikiMindMap.

Wikimindmap takes a search term, and creates a mind map of related topics, which are either directly linked to Wikipedia pages, or which open up into further refinement.

An example, based on the search term ‘Sustainability’ is below:

The best search results currently appear to be derived from en.wikipedia.org. When sustainability is entered into the search box, the following results appear:

Hovering over the term Sustainability in the centre brings up a useful definition, and direct link to the Wikipedia page.

When you click on the topics with the green arrows, a further search using these key words occurs – the topics in rectangles with the plus symbol indicates a further tree, with a narrowing of the topics focused around that general area. A blue arrow out symbol points to an external website.

This tool is terrific for students who are facing research on a broad topic, and need to narrow down their focus, or for students who simply don’t know where to begin their research. Since the Google Wonderwheel was discontinued, WikiMindMap might prove to be a useful research tool for any student’s kit.

For those using mobile devices, the app Wikinodes provides a similar search tool, but with the added functionality of note-taking and the ability to share articles via email, Twitter or Dropbox. The note-taking feature is particularly interesting, with students able to add text, visual or audio notes. These notes are then able to be added to a ‘presentation’, so that they may be shared with others.

These tools are useful no matter what your opinion is on the quality of the content in Wikipedia – even if only to teach the concept of drilling down from a general topic to more specific keywords that will shape searches more effectively.

Don’t write off Wikipedia – using it creatively could be the key to more effective research by all students of every level.

Cronon, W. (2012, February). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World. American Historical Association. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2012/1202/Scholarly-Authority-in-a-Wikified-World.cfm
Obar, J. (2012, September 20). Why Wikipedia Does Belong in the Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-does-belong-in-the-classroom.php
Proffitt, B. (2012, September 12). Why Wikipedia Doesn’t Belong In The Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-doesnt-belong-in-the-classroom.php

Top Tips for Tweeps – A step by step introduction to Twitter

You’ve read the ResourceLink blog’s previous posts on developing a Professional Learning Network using Social Media. You’ve seen the term PLN bandied around at conferences and online, and you’ve heard TV shows and radio stations asking you to add your comments via Twitter. You keep meaning to set up a Twitter account and see what the fuss is about, but it just seems far too overwhelming…

Here is your answer! A step by step, no-fuss explanation of Twitter, how to set up an account and how to use it professionally to access the wealth of resources, information and connections that are literally just one click away once you build your network.

If you’d like to learn more about the bigger picture of Professional Learning Networks, please feel free to view this presentation,

and to download the accompanying booklet. This should motivate and excite you enough to want to dive into the Twitterverse – and here’s how to do it!

Step One: Sign Up

As with all social media, to use Twitter, you need an account. While you can use a pseudonym, if you are planning on using Twitter as a Professional Learning Network, it makes sense to use your own name. Often you will meet up with fellow ‘Tweeps’ at conferences and other professional learning events, and if you use your own name it is much easier to make these real life connections. You can read more about the importance of being yourself on Twitter here.

Sign up to Twitter

Signing up to Twitter is very quick and easy. https://twitter.com/

Step 2: Acquaint yourself with the Twitter interface:

Roll over the image and wherever you see a small black Twitter bird, you will find information about the Twitter interface.

Click on this image for the interactive explanatory diagram.

Step 3: Spend some time ‘lurking’

There is no reason for you to start ‘tweeting’ immediately. Of course, your experience using Twitter will be richer once you start interacting and making connections, but there is no hurry! Spend some time searching various hashtags, such as #edtech, #edchat or #tlchat. A great list of hash tags is available here (it is open to edit, so add any you discover and make the resource richer!).

Step 4 – Build your network

Search for a few well known Tweeps who share generously in your field of interest – for example, @gcouros if you are interested in contemporary learning, or @gwynethjones if you are a teacher librarian. Spend time building a small network of useful, quality tweeters who will become the backbone of your Professional Learning Network. Choose those who you find to be posting tweets that really interest you, and look who they follow – chances are, they will also have similar interests, and be worth following also. I have compiled a list of Tweeps you may like to begin with -Teacher Tweeps to Follow – but it is by no means exhaustive, and is reflective also of my own interests. Use it as a starting point!

Step 5 – Begin Tweeting

Once you feel comfortable with the interface, and you have a small network, it is good to start ‘giving back’. The community is only as rich as it is thanks to the generosity of everyone who shares. Don’t think ‘what I have to say isn’t worth sharing’ – there’s a great video that answers that doubt here;

The things you can share are many and varied. Try to keep it 90% professional – an occasional joke or private thought just shows you are human, and sheds light on your personality, but no one needs to know what you had for breakfast every day! Share useful links you’ve just discovered, your experiences with a new resource, quotes by experts, recent insights you’ve made while teaching…answer questions posed by others and ask your own – the more you interact, the more rewarding your experience will be. These guidelines are excellent if you are unsure.

Step 6 – Use a tool to help stay afloat

After you have been using Twitter for a while, you may find that using a tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps you manage your Tweetstreams more effectively. These tools essentially ‘plug in’ to Twitter, and allow you to see multiple conversations or lists at the same time. You can even feed in other social media accounts such as Facebook, and view all posts from the same window. Tweetdeck and similar really come into their own when you are following a particular chat, for example if a conference is on that you want to attend ‘virtually’. You can follow the regular tweets in one column, and the conference hash tag in another – see below for an example.

This is an example of Hootsuite – you can see each of the streams including my personal PLN list and also the hashtag #edchat.

Step 7 – Enjoy building your network and learning new things each day!

More information about Twitter, including presentations and explanations can be found on this Google Doc created by George Couros. Also check out this excellent presentation by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.

Another great tool is this  useful poster for educational hashtags:
Popular Educational Twitter Hashtags
Compiled By: OnlineCollegeCourses.com

What’s the fuss about Google Plus?

Google's Long History in Social Media

Click for full image

Google Plus is Google’s 6th attempt to enter the Social Networking market. Even in those dark ages before Facebook (was there even such a time?) Google was experimenting with varying success in this space.

First, there was Orkut, which was released a month before Facebook, and which is still in use in Brazil and India. Then Google purchased Dodgeball, which was essentially an early version of Foursquare. They also acquired Jaiku, which was similar to Twitter – but that didn’t take off either. Google Wave only lasted 2 months after its public release, being just too convoluted for most people to even understand why it existed; and Buzz, which still exists, but hardly anyone seems to use.

The importance of this history is to put into context Google Plus, and to highlight the extremely fine line tools walk between being huge (think Facebook, with over 845 million regular users) and being a complete flop.

Google Plus, however may just last the distance. Despite the fact that it is nowhere near Facebook in popularity, with around 90 Million users, it is the fastest growing social network, and it has a number of features that make it just perfect for use in the area of education.

So…what’s the fuss?? Here’s the skinny on Google Plus:

Google Plus is very similar to Facebook in concept, although a little different in execution. For those familiar with Facebook and Twitter, this table may help you with the new terminology.

However you don’t need to be a social media expert to understand how Google Plus might fit into your classroom. Just explaining the different aspects of Google Plus, as I have below, brings to mind numerous ways this network may be used with students.

The Stream: This is similar to Facebook’s News Feed, and is where updates, posts and information shared by others that you follow will appear. You can easily manipulate what information appears in the feed by identifying  the groups or individuals whose posts you wish to view. You can view all posts, or just the posts from certain people or individuals. This control allows users to reduce the ‘noise’ (distracting posts that distracts you from your current purpose). The great thing about having this control is that you can post directly to groups of students, or view just what particular students are saying; perfect for assigning tasks for specific groups, or communicating to parent groups (e.g. Fete organisation committee, Parents and Friends committee, the whole parent body etc).

Profile: Your profile is the way you represent yourself on Google products and across the web. With your profile, you can manage the information that people see — such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites about you or created by you. In an education setting, your profile could be as class teacher, or simply your class, using a gmail email account.

Important things to note about your profile:

  •   Changing your name in your profile changes your name in your Google Account as well. This change will be reflected in other Google products you sign in to with your account, like Gmail and Docs.
  •     Deleting your profile won’t delete your Google Account.
  •     People who have your email address could see a link to the profile that’s associated with that email address.
  •     If you have a website, you can add a personal badge linking to your Google Profile. With just a couple of clicks, visitors can find your profile or add you to their circles directly from your site.

Circles: Circles are the major advantage Google Plus has over Facebook when considering its use in education. While Facebook does offer the ability to group ‘friends’ in different lists, it is an unwieldy and complicated process. Google Plus allows users to allocate people to different circles, easily allowing content and communications to be directed to specific groups of people. By grouping students in circles, teachers can easily communicate specific information to specific groups of students, and follow the posts of those particular groups of students easily.

Photos: Google always had an online photo sharing site, known as Picasa. When you sign up for Google+, you can see and share all of your Picasa Web albums in Google+.  Your albums will be visible on your Google+ photos homepage and the new Photos and Videos tabs on your Google+ profile. Security remains the same; you are in control of your photos. Google does try to make this easier to manage, however, by  ensuring that you can see and change the sharing settings for all of your albums in one place. It also makes it easier to control who can see your photos, which is important when working with photos of students; it does this by allowing you to Post to Google+ circles – like ‘Year 5′ , ‘Maths A’ or ‘Book club’ – directly from Picasa Web Albums. Another bonus for school users is that photos you upload to Google+ will be automatically resized to 2048 pixels and stored for free. Like Picasa Web, video uploads 15 minutes or shorter are free. This is terrific for removing the load from school servers, which are usually full of images and video files.

Hangouts: Google+ Hangouts allow you to have an audio-only or audio-and-video conversation with other users in a similar way to Skype. The advantage of using Google Plus over Skype is that Hangouts allow for up to 10 simultaneous users in a single room. The potential here for group discussions with authors, students in other schools or for intraschool moderation is enormous.

The feature is free and easy to use (once you download and install a browser plug-in, you’re all set). You can invite specific people to join a Hangout with you where you can chat, perform, demo, or watch YouTube videos together. (It’s worth noting that anyone who joins can in turn share the Hangout’s URL and invite others. As being in a Hangout appears in all the participants’ Streams, it does mean that these are public gatherings.)

Hangouts have many possible uses in education:

  • Live practical demonstrations – cooking, science experiments, art and craft…
  • Conducting a Q and A with guest speakers/authors/subject matter experts.
  •  After hours homework help.
  • Remote music lessons. Live sessions can be a great way to showcase practice but teachers can also prerecord lessons for students, schedule multi-student lessons, or even hold online workshops to improve specific skills.
  • Foreign language learning. One of the best ways to improve language skills when you’re learning a foreign language is by having conversations with native speakers.
  •  Book Clubs
  • Collaborative projects – students can collaborate in school hours via a Google Doc, and then meet in a hangout to continue working together in the evenings or on weekends.
  •  Parent Teacher interviews if a parent is out of town or to provide interview times beyond those you might be able to normally; e.g. work from home in the evenings rather than having to be in a dark empty school.

Google Plus may not be the Facebook killer its creators are dreaming of. However, its features do lend themselves to innovative uses for teachers – if you have dabbled in Google Plus, leave a comment – we’d love to hear about your experience!

More information…

The presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/12DLcPwouTU26MKS0v7M9_I3BXf3WGJ1Gb-RFz95EnT4/edit

Watch the videos:

Read the Articles:

Google Hangouts: Now with Google Docs Integration, Now Even Better for Edu – easy to read article, with links to posts about other aspects of Google Plus

Teaching with Google+ - A great post, with ideas for beginners, intermediate and advanced users

Understanding And Using Google+ In The Classroom And Beyond - a terrific live binder, full of information and ideas

Have a laugh!

Numeracy Ideas for the Contemporary Classroom

The Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) recognises that numeracy is an essential skill for students in becoming successful learners at school and life beyond school, and in preparing them for their future roles as family, community and workforce members. More broadly, a highly numerate population is critical in ensuring the nation’s ongoing prosperity, productivity and workforce participation.

Individuals who are numerate are better prepared to participate and engage in a world that is increasingly focused upon creativity, innovation and which focuses upon knowledge creation and sharing.

This blog post is based upon the research of Professor Merrilyn Goos and many of the ideas here have been inspired by the great work of Tom Barrett.  He is a tremendous inspiration for all teachers, not just in the work he does with Ewan McIntosh for NoTosh, but also in his tremendous crowd-sourced series, Interesting Ways. I would encourage you to follow him on Twitter (@tombarrett), as a regular source of great ideas and resources.

21st Century Numeracy

Professor Merrilyn Goos has developed an excellent model for 21st Century numeracy:

Created by Merrilyn Goos

A model for 21st century numeracy by Merrilyn Goos

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version, or read about the model in more detail in the following Keynote Presentation: http://www.nlnw.sa.edu.au/files/links/Goos_SAkeynote.ppt

Explaining the model:

You still need mathematical knowledge to be numerate! This includes concepts, skills, and problem solving strategies, as well as the ability to use sensible estimations. A numerate person also has positive dispositions – a willingness and confidence to engage with tasks – independently and in collaboration with others – and apply their mathematical knowledge in flexible and adaptable ways.
Numerate practice often involves using tools. These include:

1. Representational tools like ready reckoners and charts and tables that might be used in a manufacturing context, and of course

2. physical tools like mathematical drawing instruments and the work related tools of a trade or profession

3.digital tools – technology.
A numerate person can organise their personal finances, for example in relation to credit card spending and mobile phone use. They manage their personal health by making decisions about their eating and exercise habits. They engage in leisure activities that require numeracy knowledge, such as travel, sport, perhaps gambling.

All kinds of occupations require numeracy. Many examples of work-related numeracy are very specific to the particular work context, and often the mathematics used is either invisible to the user or is used in very different ways from how mathematics is taught at school.

Informed and critical citizens are numerate citizens. Almost every public issue depends on data, projections, and the kind of systematic thinking that’s at the heart of numeracy.

Numeracy – A General Capability

In the Australian Curriculum students become numerate as they develop the capacity to recognise and understand the role of mathematics in the world around them and the confidence, willingness and ability to apply mathematics to their lives in ways that are constructive and meaningful.

As they become numerate, students develop and use mathematical skills related to:

  • Calculation and number
  • Patterns and relationships
  • Proportional reasoning
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Statistical literacy
  • Measurement.

With this in mind, below are four examples of different ways technology can be used creatively to enhance students’ numeracy skills. These ideas do not focus specifically on maths, but rather on broader strategies that require the application of a number of the mathematical skills numerate students demonstrate.

 1. Wolfram Alpha –

creating interesting calculation and number problems with real information

Wolfram Alpha is a computational search engine. Although it works at extremely complex levels, there are many challenges that can be set using Wolfram Alpha as inspiration and to check results against.

For example:
Write down everything you know about the number 28. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=28

1)    Is 10 001 a prime number? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Is+10001+prime%3F

Or create engaging calculations using information that is nominated by the students. For example:

1)    Which Harry Potter movie is the longest, and by how much (students need to compare numbers, order them and then subtract second longest from longest) http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Harry+Potter+and+the+Philosopher%27s+Stone&a=*C.Harry+Potter+and+the+Philosopher%27s+Stone-_*Movie-

2)    How much closer is Brisbane to the South Pole as the North Pole? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Brisbane+to+North+Pole

3)    Are there more men or women living in Australia, and by how much? http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=how+many+men+in+australia

2. Proportional Reasoning using Scootle

There are fantastic learning objects available on Scootle that allow students to see and interact with fractions and the understandings required to develop proportional reasoning.

Explore this learning path of examples of some of the quality learning objects:

http://www.scootle.edu.au/ec/pin/EDWHQM?userid=20960 – Pin number is EDWHWM

Cassowary sanctuary

Help a park ranger to arrange fencing in a wildlife sanctuary. Divide common geometric shapes into equal-sized sections for keeping cassowaries. Group the enclosures to form a quarantine zone, then express divisions of the enclosures as fractions. Work through facts about the life of cassowaries: physical characteristics; diet; habitat; life cycles; and locations. Interact with graphs to see how people can help to save cassowaries. This learning object is a combination of two objects in the same series

Playground percentages

Help a town planner to design two site plans for a school. Assign regions on a 10×10 grid for different uses such as a playground, canteen, car park or lawn. Calculate the percentage of the total site used for each region. Use a number line to display fractions and equivalent fractions. This learning object is a combination of two objects in the same series.

Measures: scaling down

Compare the areas of squares, rectangles and triangles before and after being scaled down (reduced). Notice that ‘similar shapes’ in the mathematical sense have the same shape but different areas. Explore the relationship between side-length reduction and area reduction when scaling down shapes. This learning object is the third in a series of eight objects that progressively increase in difficulty.

Spatial Reasoning using Resources from Flickr

A great deal of Maths is visible in the everyday. Having students identify where they see Maths can be an engaging way to relate the concepts being taught to real life examples.

Using Flickr students can:

  • search for specific examples of spatial concepts in real life

http://www.flickr.com/photos/44335830@N08/sets/72157625801871870/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/geometric/pool/page2/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/99544099@N00/pool/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by kathryn_rotondo: http://flickr.com/photos/kathryn_rotondo/2228148826/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Andrew J. Sutherland: http://flickr.com/photos/sutherlandviolin/3351394552/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Cast a Line: http://flickr.com/photos/58754750@N08/5454720719/

  • students upload their own photos and share explanations for their choices – use the ‘notes’ feature on photos in flickr to add explanations, as seen in this example:

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by reekhardough: http://flickr.com/photos/70968517@N00/321037734/

  http://www.flickr.com/photos/70968517@N00/321037734/

Developing Statistical Literacy using Google Docs

Using Google Docs allows students to create forms that are automatically linked to spreadsheets for analysis of data.

The difference between using a program such as Excel and Google Docs is that with Google Docs you can provide a web link or embed the form on a class blog or website to provide more open access. Also, multiple students can access the form/spreadsheet at the same time, making it possible to set group tasks or even homework (e.g. survey parents etc).

An example is here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AgBciM5qWAuTdGRIQWdPS2FJN2tfYkVxRXlPSGRiZUE

Google Forms can be as simple or as complex as required, and provide the option to view responses in a summary format also:

Google Spreadsheets allow data to be visualised also:

Developing Measurement Skills using Google Maps

Google maps allow you to zoom in on many different areas of interest. If you have a Google Account, you can create maps with pins that have associated maths challenges.

As part of the Maps Labs, you can tick an option to have a distance measurement tool function that students can then use to measure different distances – not only the distance between different points, but the area and perimeter of swimming pools and other large constructions and locations. To access this tool, you need to be logged in – why not create a generic Google account for students so that they can use this and other features.

For Example:

http://g.co/maps/phz5s

Your thoughts?

Have you used a contemporary tool in an innovative way to develop numeracy skills?

Share your ideas or experiences in the comments – we’d love to hear of more ways to engage students in this vital area!

End of Year Celebrations – Multimedia to share the Memories

 

The final weeks of school are an overwhelmingly busy time for everyone in the entire school community.

Exams

Reports

Class Lists

Christmas and break up events

Graduations

Awards nights

It is exhausting just thinking about it!

The culmination of a busy year, combined with the general exhaustion that accompanies it means that any time saving measure is of great importance.

The ResourceLink Blog is here to help!

The centrepiece of many graduation and end of year events is the ‘photostory’ – a slideshow or video production that captures the many events that occurred during the year. While the actual production may only go for 4-5 minutes, anyone who has been involved in their creation knows just how time-consuming they can be to produce – and the pressure that grows each year to create one that is bigger and better than the previous year’s.

Thankfully technology exists to take much of the headache out of creating these shows – and below you will find a number of free or very reasonably priced digital tools that will create amazing multimedia quickly and easily.

Before introducing these tools, a short word on copyright.

Copyright in this area is incredibly complex. In most cases images used are photos and video taken by the school, and therefore the copyright rests with the school, and there is no problem here. However, most multimedia productions use music as a soundtrack.  The best advice is to research your particular scenario on the SmartCopying website, or even better, if at all possible use music licenced under a Creative Commons licence, where attribution is one of the only requirements for use. There are many places where Creative Commons music may be sourced, including CCMixter and Jamendo . Another alternative is to use student created music. Even young students can create innovative soundscapes using free programs such as Garageband and Audacity.

Keeping these copyright issues in mind, let’s look at some of the wonderful tools currently available to assist you in creating fantastic end of year reflections!

1. Animoto

Animoto stands alone for ease of creation and for an amazing time vs outcome ratio. Simply upload your photos/short video grabs, select from a wide range of Creative Commons licenced music grouped by genre, choose a video ‘style’ and click create. The remixing, syncing to music and transitions are automatically handled by the Animoto tool, which then kindly sends you an email to alert you when the remix process is complete. The outcome is a stylish, professional looking video that can be embedded into blogs and websites, or downloaded and burnt to dvd. Teachers are able to access a ‘pro’ account for free. A tutorial on how to Animoto is available for download from our blog  here.

2. Photopeach

Photopeach creates short videos and slideshows,and has a special section specifically for educators, in the same way as Animoto does. Unfortunately, it appears that the educator accounts, while offering more control and privacy, are only available in a paid subscription form. Despite this, for a teacher looking to create an exciting looking slideshow for the purposes of an end of year event, the free account may be all that is required.  Photopeach operates on a similar way to Animoto – photos are uploaded, accompanying music selected and the layout chosen. The program then creates a slideshow that can be embedded or shared. The final product has a slightly different look to Animoto.

3. Capzles

Capzles is a slightly different product, which we have written about before here. Although it is a timeline creator in essence, it could be used to create an innovative multimedia slideshow. The disadvantage of using a tool such as this or Vuvox (a similar tool) is that the end product is a Flash based show that cannot be downloaded and burnt onto a disc for distribution. However if you are looking for a different ‘look’ to previous years, these tools might be worth considering.

Using these tools, you are sure to wow the crowd at your end of year event, and as a by-product, learn useful skills that you can pass on to your students in creating innovative multimedia – win win!

A Primer on QR Codes

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo by The Daring Librarian: http://flickr.com/photos/info_grrl/5606363434/

It seems like lately, QR codes are everywhere.
Although I saw them frequently in Japan several years ago, it seemed like Australia would never jump on board the QR wagon…until now. QR codes are not only in vogue, there are so many ways they can be used creatively in education…so here’s a plain english version of what they are, and how you might take advantage of this (newish) technology…

What are they?

QR (Quick Response) codes are basically 2D barcodes. as they can be read vertically and horizontally, they can contain much more information that a regular barcode. They can contain up to 4000 characters (numeric, alphabetical, or Kanji (Japanese/Chinese symbols). Traditional barcodes contain only 20 digits of data.

A short piece of text, a website address, an email address or a phone number are just some of the types of information that can be stored in a code. In Japan, where QR codes originated, they are on most business cards – providing a link to a Google Map of where to find the business, or the business website in most cases, so users can simply scan the code with their phone to get direct access to information.

Most Smartphones will have a barcode scanner as a downloadable app which will read QR codes.

For the desktop you can also install a little bit of software that will use a webcam to read the codes. A free and easy to use desktop QR code reader and creator can be downloaded at http://www.quickmark.com.tw/En/basic/downloadPC.asp
This program will allow you to create QR codes and to scan QR codes on the computer screen quickly and easily.

Whether children are using mobile devices or the webcam on a netbook, they will access digital resources in fewer clicks.

Alternatively, there are many websites that generate QR codes – one of the easiest is Kaywa QR Generator: http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

Why should I use them?

QR codes livebinder

Loads more information on QR codes is in the livebinder accessible by scanning this QR code

• Convey large amounts of information easily

• Provide easy access to websites/YouTube videos

• Create scavenger hunts or self-guided tours

• Provide information to parents

• Provide easy access for early years students to websites – use a desktop scanner

How to use them

The opportunities are endless. The following video shows how one school in the United States is using QR codes in many creative ways. Following the video are just a few additional ideas … please feel free to share more suggestions in the comments section below this post…

• Create QR codes for websites for direct student access

• A tour of any location can be made self guiding. Students use headphones plugged into phone/itouch and scan QR codes to listen to pre-recorded podcasts describing that part of the tour.

• Bring interactivity into discussions about moral dilemmas or social issues. Create short videos depicting the consequences of various actions or different perspectives on social issues. Create a QR code for each video. Students read the description of the dilemma or social issue, then scan the corresponding QR code to explore the dilemma/issue more deeply, by viewing the video.

• Include QR codes that direct students to websites with further information on homework/assignment task sheets

Websites and Tools

40 interesting ways to use QR Codes

Desktop QR scanner: Quickmark

This Diigo group is specifically for sharing links about using QR codes in education – if you aren’t already a member of Diigo, you should be (read the post about it here) otherwise, join this group for regular digests on new ways to use this tool in the classroom.

As said earlier…if you are using QR codes, or have ideas on how they might be used creatively, share them below in the comments section…we would love to hear what others are doing!

We would like to spread the word about our blog! Simply scan the QR code below to post the link of our blog to your Twitter account…and if you don’t have a Twitter account, stay tuned for an upcoming article on why Twitter is vital for every educator!


History is Hip at Kids Connect!

Kids Connect is an annual technology conference run by kids for kids. This year’s conference was organised by the Year 7 Students of St Thomas’ Primary School, Camp Hill. With the theme Ctrl, Alt, Create primary students from across the Brisbane and Rockhampton Archdioceses gathered at the historic and dynamic Brisbane Powerhouse to spend two days immersed in learning about and with technology. You can view their YouTube channel to see more.

When approached by the organising committee of this year’s conference the ResourceLink team felt it would be interesting for students to explore the varied history of the Brisbane Powerhouse; from a Power Station that once controlled the source of our city’s electricity, to an abandoned building which was an alternative home for Brisbane’s homeless, to the modern, dynamic and creative arts centre it is today.

The Web2.0 tool Capzles allows students to easily create interactive timelines and digital stories. It was decided that this would be a powerful and engaging tool for telling these stories from the Powerhouse’s history.

As we had no por knowledge  of the group of students’ skills and abilities it was important to ensure that a collection of effective resources was available to support a diverse group of learners. We found these resources in several locations, including primary evidence materials sourced from the John Oxley Library.

The Ladder of Learning Inquiry Model

Using the LADDER inquiry model to develop a broad learning scaffold enabled the students to drive the development and delivery of the interactive timelines. Learn more about LADDER and resourcing inquiry on Inquiring Minds.

We LAUNCHED our inquiry into the history of the Powerhouse by exploring the idea of telling stories using timelines. We did this by deliberately choosing to create a real life time line so students could develop a concrete experience before moving to a digital platform. The students were given a collection of photos, logos and advertisements which told the story of the Apple Computer Corporation; these images were sourced from a Capzle. You can view this capzle here.

Students were asked to select a photo which they felt was interesting and to tell the group what aspects they found interesting. This opened up the necessary dialogue to support our historical inquiry. After this round table conversation students were asked to place these photos in chronological order. In the process a clear pattern emerged; students could accurately place photos in order during the course of their own personal history. The real historical inquiry began once the group recognised this pattern, and began to ask questions and hypothesising about the earlier sources. Students moved beyond statements like ‘well its a black and white photo, it must be old’ to ‘I haven’t seen the rainbow apple before so it must be old’ to ‘well that apple is in these photos so they must be around the same time’. Students led by guiding questions were now able make assumptions based on critical questioning. What  developed was a timeline which was relatively accurate to the original Capzle. This process framed our inquiry about the history of the Brisbane Powerhouse and gave the student a clear understanding of how they were to approach their own historical investigation.

Students ACCESSEDhistorical content about the Powerhouse through another guiding activity.

The Brisbane Powerhouse; an inspiring venue for learning

In groups of four, the students explored the Brisbane Powerhouse with a collection of photos of the Powerhouse from each of its three eras. These photos had been sourced from the John Oxley Library. Students were looking for evidence of the past which remained in place today. They spent time taking photographs of areas of the Powerhouse that reflected the era that they were creating a timeline for. Again this activity demanded students to ask critical questions of the source photos and of the Powerhouse.

Returning to our work area the students began DEVELOPINGtheir timelines.

The students took on roles within the groups that reflected their strengths and interests; some researched further information about the individuals whose stories could shed light on the Powerhouse’s past by reading archival newspaper articles that were made available electronically to the students.

Creating the Capzle online

Others developed scripts for short films, where students roleplayed individuals from the point in history they were researching. Those who were exploring the Powerhouse’s current story as a creative arts centre wrote interview questions for Powerhouse staff, who were later interviewed on film. Further research led to more critical questions and the discovery of new areas of the Powerhouse that needed photographing.

It was clear throughout this process that the students were fascinated by the Powerhouse building and its chequered history. They were totally engaged in every aspect of the process. They DEMONSTRATED their knowledge through the construction of three Capzle timelines, which can be viewed online here: the Original Powerhouse, here: the Powerhouse as an abandoned building and here: the Powerhouse as a creative arts centre.

In the course of their construction, students used a variety of digital tools and technologies, including digital cameras, digital video cameras, digital voice recorders, Garageband (to create the background music), iMovie (to edit the film footage), PowerPoint (to create the image files of the newspaper articles and their research) and Wordle. It was fascinating to watch as the students shared their variety of experiences with each other, teaching each other (and us!), playing with the various tools and developing their skills in each of them.

Working hard at Kids Connect...and having fun!

The Capzles were completed early on the second day, so we took some time to EVALUATEthem with the students. Together we asked ‘is there anything missing from the Capzle?; what could be improved? how could it be improved?; does it truly share the story of the Powerhouse at that time?’ The students were full of ideas on how their creation could be made even more informative, and were keen to ensure that the layout, music, images and multimedia worked together to reflect the time period of the timeline.

To REFLECT on the process, we interviewed the students to record their experiences, their learnings, what they enjoyed and what they would like to do next. The students wrote these questions collaboratively, and interviewed each other. Some of these interviews were captured on film, which you can watch below.


As teachers, we also took time to reflect on the Kids Connect experience; our thoughts are below. Click on the table to view in a larger format:

Our SWOT analysis of our Kids Connect activity

 

 

 

It was a great experience, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The Year 7 students and their teachers from St Thomas’ School at Camp Hill are to be congratulated on the smooth running of the event….where we all learnt so much!

For teachers wishing to do something similar in their classroom, our Education Officer:History, Helen Hennessy has provided the following valuable information about linking these activities to the Australian Curriculum:

Links to the Australian Curriculum, History.

The learning experiences in this unit link very well to the Australian Curriculum, history.

The skills reflect the historical skills of chronology, historical questions and research , analysis and use of sources, perspectives and interpretations  and explanation and communication.  These skills form the basis of study at all year levels.

The content area  could be used as an introduction to the Year 7 Depth Study, “Investigating the ancient past” as it explores how historians investigate history.  While the sophistication of the investigation and use of technology  might need to be modified, the concept is perfect for the  Year 3 topic that explores one important example of change and one of continuity in the local community.

Wordle, Word Clouds and Why They Work!

Analysing large blocks of text, comparing versions of stories and evaluating the content of websites are common tasks given to students each day. For many students, facing a dense block of text is overwhelming. Enter the tag cloud – a fabulous resource for enhancing literacy, creating beautiful artworks and generally having fun with language! 

Tag cloud generators convert blocks of text into a cloud of words, and provide a variety of tools to assist students identify key words, important themes, competing ideas or hidden agendas. There are a number of tag cloud generators available online, each with their strengths and weaknesses. This post explores several of them, suggesting ways they may be used in the classroom, and why they are a valuable literacy tool.

The tools discussed below are Wordle, ABC Ya, Tagul, Tagxedo and Wordsift.

1.Wordle – (http://www.wordle.net)

Wordle is perhaps the best known of the tag cloud generators. It creates beautiful tag clouds that are as attractive as they are useful. In weighting each word by usage, Wordle word clouds allow for easy analysis of text, as the most commonly used words are the largest.

Wordle allows users to change layout, font and colour, and has options to remove common words and numbers.

While it is easy to print a Wordle, saving the word cloud for future use or inclusion in other documents requires the use of the Print Screen button, or a screen capture tool such as Jing.

Wordle comes into its own when used to compare texts – such as Wayne Swan’s 2011 budget speech, and Tony Abbot’s budget reply, seen below.

Text of Wayne Swan's Budget 2011 speech

Text of Tony Abbott's Budget 2011 reply

In summary:

• No email address or login required

• Simple to use

• Several options to edit appearance

• Requires additional tools to save completed Wordle

2. ABC Ya – (http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm)

ABC Ya Word Clouds are very similar to Wordle, but feature a colourful and simple interface designed specifically for primary school aged students.

There is no log-in required, so users do not need an email address, and printing and saving the finished product is as simple as clicking the button below the cloud.

Red Riding Hood using ABC Ya

In summary:

• No email address or login required

• Simple to use

• Aimed at younger users

• Easy to save

3. Tagul – (http://tagul.com/)

Unfortunately the need to register prior to use may limit Tagul’s audience, as users require an email address and must remember a username and password. However, Tagul offers several different features including the ability to create a word cloud in different shapes and to animate the text.

If embedding the finished word cloud into a web page or blog, users can tag the words so that they act as hyperlinks to websites, making Tagul wordclouds a creative way of directing students to particular sites of interest.

Red Riding Hood Tagul style

In summary:

• Email address and log in required

• Different shape word clouds possible

• Creates hyperlinked and animated wordclouds

• Simple to save, print or share

4. Tagxedo – (http://www.tagxedo.com/app.html)

Tagxedo is in Beta at the moment, so many features that will become available only for paid users are currently free.

While Tagxedo takes a little more practise than some of the other generators, it does offer a wider range of options to create very artistic and beautiful clouds.

Tagxedo allows users to create tag clouds in any shape (many standard shapes are provided, with the option to upload your own) and currently users can upload any font or colour scheme they choose.

It also provides many different printing and saving options, in a range different resolution levels and formats.

Tagxedo is possibly of more use in creating works of art than for analysing text, however the way students choose to create their cloud may provide insight into their understanding of the text.

Wolf-shaped Red Riding Hood tag cloud by Tagxedo

In summary:

• No email or login required

• More complex and therefore may take longer to learn

• Wide array of creation options

• Strength is in artistic representations of text rather than analysis

5. Wordsift – (http://www.wordsift.com/)

Created by Stanford University, Wordsift is not so much for creating beautiful word clouds as practical ones with features such as the ability to list words in order of frequency or in alphabetical order, as well as allowing  users to click on words to view a visual thesaurus entry and matching Google images. These tools make WordSift terrific for great for decoding activities.

Having been created in a University environment, Wordsift is backed by research, with an interesting article available highlighting underlying theories for using such a tool to enhance vocabulary development and therefore reading skills. There is also information for teachers available as well.

WordSift analyses text using multiple tools

In summary:

• No email or log in required

• Visual thesaurus and Google images accompany word cloud for richer discussion/understanding

• Suited for older users

• Designed for use as a tool rather than image creator

Of course as with any Web 2.0 tool, many variations abound. If none of these tag cloud generators fit your bill, why not try:

TagCrowd – http://tagcrowd.com/

VocabGrabber – http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/#

TagCloud Generator – http://www.tag-cloud.de/

More resources on word clouds and their uses in the classroom can be found below: